The Rose Parade, also known as the Tournament of Roses Parade, is an annual tradition in Pasadena, California,  that takes place every year on New Year’s day (or on Monday, January 2 if New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday.) The event was started in 1890 by members of the Pasadena Valley Hunt Club who wanted to showcase California’s beautiful winter weather. “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise” they said and this is how it all began. The Rose Parade is one of the most awaited events of the year and is watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators from all over the United States, either in person or on multiple television networks. The parade includes flower-covered floats, marching bands, and equestrian units. The day before the parade, the streets and the neighborhoods on the route of the parade are sealed off and reserved for the marshaling floats and bands. Read More

Growing up in communist Romania had its own advantages. I could tell you all kinds of dreadful stories about those times and they would all be true, but not everything was bad. Yes, there were five of us living in a one bedroom apartment (sometimes even more when relatives came to visit); the lines to the grocery store were miles long and food was rationalized; we had only two changes of clothes: one for school and one for playing outside;  we only had hot water for a few of hours on week-ends, so on Sundays there wasn’t much going on because it was bath day; electricity was cut off from 6:00 – 8:00 pm each night across the country (saving the energy they said). Nevertheless, we were content with our lives (or at least that’s how our long-lasting tolerance was interpreted.)  And why wouldn’t we be? We had free healthcare and free education, two basic ‘rights‘ that you have to pay for in the rotten capitalist world. Life in Romania was simple, but calm. Everyone had access to the same goods, nobody had anything special, so there was very little envy going around. Everyone had the same salary, regardless of productivity. You didn’t have to work hard and you didn’t have to worry about loosing your job. You didn’t have too make too many choices either: there was only one laundry detergent on the market and the TV had only one channel. Boring? Perhaps, but surely not very stressful. Now that I think back to those years, I realize I that it must have been hope and humor that helped us keep it all together. And speaking of humor, here are a few things that you’ll only relate to if you were raised communism:   Read More

I felt punished when I pulled up the curtains that morning. “Damn this weather! When does it get cold in California, if not in February?” I asked rhetorically. Although a snow storm was in the forecast, it had been nothing but rain for the past four days. The thick blanket of snow that was covering the streets of Lake Tahoe earlier that week was beginning to melt under the heavy showers, while up in the mountains the winds were blowing fiercely. Conditions were so bad that ski resorts had to close for the past few days.This was supposed to be our ski vacation, but the weather didn’t seem to care. “I think we should go visit Carson City. It may be sunny on the Nevada side of the mountain,” my husband suggested.  I wasn’t very convinced, but the perspective of spending another day behind the foggy windows made me say ‘yes’ right away. So we hopped in the car and headed down the mountain. 

As the road kept winding toward the valley I couldn’t help asking myself: why would anyone want to visit Carson City, other than running from bad weather? After seeing Reno a few years earlier, I didn’t expect Nevada’s State Capital would impress me much more. By the time we reached Carson Valley the rain lifted and the sun was Read More